Baboon, Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Impala, Monkey, Mongoose, Wildebeest, Zebra
Lake Manyara National Park: Tree Climbing Lions, Flamingos, and Hot Springs!
Lake Manyara National Park is in a central location within the Northern Tanzanian safari circuit, with Arusha to the East, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – and the Serengeti! – to the North-West, Tarangire National Park to the South and Lake Natron to the North. It is possible to visit Lake Manyara as a day trip from Arusha, but most will combine it with a longer safari.
Lake Manyara National Park includes a number of different ecosystems, from the Soda Lake that is the center and heart of the park, to the grassy flood plains and marshlands around the lake to thick Acacia woodlands and steep mountainsides with Baobabs on the west of the park where the rift valley wall rises far above the lake. Lake Manyara is famous for its tree-climbing lions, and, of course, the Lake itself and all the birdlife and wildlife that it draws.
Lake Manyara is mildly saline but still safe for animals to drink. During the dry season it is prone to extreme evaporation but still provides a water source that attracts large numbers of animals (Cape buffalo, giraffe, impala, zebra, baboons, wildebeest, and many more) and birds. The lake is known for flocks of thousands of flamingos that cover it in pink glory. You are also like to see pelicans, storks, Southern Ground Hornbill, a variety of herons (squacco, grey, black) kingfishers, bee eaters, and, of course, the beautiful lilac breasted roller.
Activities within Lake Manyara National Park
Hippo Pool: Coming in to Lake Manyara National Park from the North (frequently via Mto wa Mbu), one of your first stops may well be the Hippo Pools. How many hippos can you see at once? Watch them jostle for position with each other, hear the grunting and farting, smell the stench that only hippos can create, and watch the birdlife treat the hippo’s backs as landing pads. It’s an amazing spectacle overall.
Hot Springs & Boardwalk (Maji Moto): to the Southern / Western end of Lake Manyara, get out and stretch your legs on the Boardwalk. See what animals you can spot as you walk out over the lake. Watch warthogs in the water, and see how many different water birds you can identify. Spoonbills, storks, pelicans, egrets, and many, many more. Then visit the hot springs that give this area its name.
Treetop Walkway: Visit this 370 meter walkway that slopes gently up from ground level into the treetop canopy, reaching a maximum height of 18 meters. You can look down on the trees, and may see birds, butterflies or monkeys along the way. Dotted along the path are treetop platforms where you can stop and take in the view.
Mto wa Mbu
While not inside Lake Manyara National Park, a visit to the park is frequently combined with a cultural excursion at Mto wa Mbu, which is a not-to-be-missed experience. Mto wa Mbu is a farming community where representatives from all 120 Tanzanian tribes live in proximity to one another. A tour with a local guide is sure to be a highlight of your safari.
Your local guide will walk you through the village to:
- learn how rice is processed
- see rice growing
- visit a banana plantation
- learn how banana beer is made (and maybe even taste some!)
- visit a children’s school
- see local painters at work
- visit a wood working studio
- explore the local market
Lake Manyara Sighting
My most memorable sighting in Lake Manyara National Park was one time when I was with a guest and we were heading to the hot springs at the Southern end of Lake Manyara, about halfway from the main gate along the lakeshore. We saw a lioness resting in an acacia tree on a branch. She was calling out loudly. We sat and watched for a while and eventually we saw four small lion cubs that looked to be about four months old. She kept calling and we didn’t know what was going on at first, but as we watched we discovered that she was teaching the cubs how to climb the tree. She came down from her branch and showed them how to climb up, then called them to follow her. It took almost two hours of patient instruction until one of the cubs managed to climb to one of the lowest branches. It was an amazing and very unusual experience for all of us to watch this learning process, and after the safari, my guests said that this sighting was the highlight of their safari.